Speech by the Honourable MEC for Health, Mr Mxolisi Sokatsha, on the occasion of community healthcare workers Recognition Day in the Dikgatlong Municipality, Ulco, Frances Baard District, Northern Cape
13 Sep 2010
Speaker of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature
Members of Northern Cape Provincial Legislature
Members of the Executive Council
The Chairperson and Members of the Provincial Portfolio Committee on Health
Mayor and Counsellors of Dikgatlong Local Municipality
Representatives from all the different community and religious institutions and structures present
Senior Managers and Departmental officials from the Department of Health
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
And lastly, all community healthcare workers present
Good afternoon to all. It is indeed a privilege and honour for me to address you today. We are gathered here today to give thanks, praise and appreciation to a special group of people who put their time and energy into taking care of the sick, vulnerable and destitute people within our communities in the Dikgatlong Municipality, the community healthcare workers.
Community healthcare workers play a pivotal role in the Primary Healthcare system of our country in order for government to address the health service delivery challenges we face. Globally and here in our country and province, we are faced with a dire shortage of doctors and nurses and the role of Community Health Care Workers has become more valuable and important.
Ladies and gentlemen, calls made by our people during the April 2009 elections to improve health service delivery led to the African National Congress (ANC) identifying Health as one of its key priority areas for the next five years together with job creation, rural development, fighting crime and education. Overhauling of the national health system has been identified by government as a key aspect which will assist government in attaining our health priorities. In addition, the ANC led government developed a Ten Point Plan specifically designed for the health sector to address the burning healthy service delivery challenges facing us.
The cadres of community healthcare workers have become an integral part of the Department of Health in the sense that they can achieve more because they are working at grass root levels. They are the foot soldiers working daily in communities and know every patient’s needs, desires, challenges and circumstances. Supporting, empowering, motivating and giving recognition to them forms part of an ongoing process in our quest to improve health services to our people.
Programme director, we are all aware of the tuberculosis (TB) and HIV and AIDS epidemic we are facing as a country and a province. Honourable President Jacob Zuma on the commemoration of World AIDS Day on 1 December 2009, launched the HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) Campaign where after the Honourable Premier of the Northern Cape, Premier Hazel Jenkins launched the campaign in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District on 30 April 2010. The HCT Campaign a direct response aimed at increasing our efforts to address the scourge of HIV and AIDS in our province and our country.
The campaign is done under the theme: “I am responsible...We are responsible... South Africa is taking responsibility”. This theme will be sustained throughout 2010-2011. The theme urges each and every one of us to take personal and collective responsibility of our own health and HIV status. Government and all social partners must take collective responsibility to ensure quality services. It is only through a multi-sectoral approach that we as a country and a province can effectively address the challenges we face regarding HIV and AIDS.
Know your HIV status, get tested.
Ladies and gentlemen, in order for government and society to make a real impact and successfully address thechallenges of disease we face like HIV and AIDS and TB, maternal, infant less than five years mortality, violence and injury, and non-communicable diseases like high blood pressure, heart diseases, diabetes mellitus, and cancer, we have to intensify comprehensive community based responses. These include among others to address the socio and economical realities that are faced by the vulnerable section of society, equipping and empowering colleagues with tools for prevention of infection.
Community healthcare workers are ambassadors of health which place the responsibility on them to practice what they preach and be the example in communities. These colleagues are answering a call for them to provide their support and assistance to their fellow human being in need of health care attention who would have otherwise been sidelined and left to fend for themselves. They are indeed noble human beings who have managed under challenging circumstances to elevate the term “caring” to another level.
It is our responsibility to look after our health and adopt healthy lifestyles. Prevention is better than cure. Regular exercise and eating healthy foods contributes immensely towards a healthy body and mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, the high burden of TB in many developing countries makes TB control a priority public health concern that must be addressed through the Primary Healthcare network. The number of total number of TB cases in the Northern Cape province has increased from 6 127 in 2004 to 10 503 in 2009, setting the TB incidence rate for 2009 at 832 per 100 000 population.
The increase in the number of TB cases could be attributed to intensified TB case finding through TB awareness campaigns. On the other hand poor living conditions marked by poor infection control systems at community level together with increased HIV infections exacerbate the scourge of TB in the province.
The implementation of the Directly Observed Treatment (DOTS) strategy can accelerate the decline in the annual rate of TB infections in our province, however effective Implementation of the DOTS strategy for tuberculosis (TB) control depends on a wide range of health service providers, including the community. The prevention and control of TB is still a challenge and thus warrants the continuous engagement of all stakeholders’ especially civil society and non-government organisations as to address the impact of TB in communities.
The TB Nelson Mandela Aventis Project for combating TB was originally formed on the 22nd April 2002 with a common slogan “Every breath counts” and the vision of: “A TB free South Africa”. TB free is intended to help improve TB detection and treatment rate by increasing TB awareness, enabling people with TB to be treated through DOTS and educate health care professionals or care givers, community and patients about the need to ensure consistency in treatment and knowledge about the disease.
TB Free provides regular trainings and refresher courses according to the needs identified by the district. Regular visits are done in the different facilities to monitor and support care givers. All awareness campaigns planned are done by district together with TB Free.
Today, the Nelson Mandela Aventis Project in partnership with the Northern Cape Department of Health recognises the contribution of the 117 community healthcare workers in the prevention and control of TB as well as to encourage and motivate the community to become community healthcare workers. Amongst others community healthcare workers do active finding of TB suspects, supervision of treatment at the patient household, tracing of TB defaulters, and visiting the household of TB patients during the first days of treatment to check on adherence to treatment. The latter eases the burden of frequent clinic attendance, long queues and long travelling distances for TB patients.
We would also like to extend a great thank you to Thabisho, Protiro, Tshepo ya Sechaba, European Union and Remogo as NGOs also operating in the Dikgatlong area for their support, commitment and dedication to work with the Department of Health in realising our vision of “Health service excellence for all”. Government cannot address the health challenges we face alone and only through the forming of strategic relationships with civil society, the private sector and community organisations can we make an impact.
In conclusion, we want to indicate to the community healthcare workers that their efforts, selfless behavior, dedication and contributions towards helping their fellow community members are not going unnoticed and that they are greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work, stay motivated under challenging working circumstances and God bless.
“Working together, we can do more”
Issued by: Northern Cape Health
13 Sep 2010
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